“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

God, Creation, and Mathematics: Are necessary truths trivial?

...Now, one response to this description of a possible "pattern of reality" would be to say that I am seeing what I want to see, that I am looking at the world in a particular way so that I will inevitably find the pattern I imagined from Lewis' writings, or perhaps that the world has to have the pattern I've described - that it is as essential as logic. One might say, "of course everything is interconnected and interrelated - what is special about that? Of course you can take any two things and find something new in the way they relate to one another. It's only common sense that eventually, given enough time, totally new and groundbreaking things will happen. And of course there must be some basic, simply beginning from which things grow, and it's the very nature of time for things to move in a definite direction." The objection is that the proposed "pattern" is not unique or special or remarkable because the world must be that way - because one can hardly imagine another logically coherent reality.

Maybe that is true. Maybe this "pattern" must characterize reality - maybe it is as basic as logic, so that the "pattern of reality" is simply a manifestation of logic or mathematics, or something to that effect. But even if this is the case, it does not make the pattern any less beautiful or wonderful. First of all, as we have seen, the pattern is grounded and rooted in God, and God is a rational God. The laws of logic are part of his nature, so if reality is patterned after who God is, one would expect the observed pattern to be logically coherent, and perhaps even logically necessary. Second, just because something has to be as it is doesn't mean it should be taken for granted, or that it is less of a miracle and wonder. The thing remains just as beautiful, and the breathtaking mystery of it is that a thing that beautiful should exist necessarily.

Consider mathematics as an example. When a mathematician discovers some elegant theorem, he may well think "this is beautiful and mysterious" and he may also think "this is necessarily true. It is not true only in my mind or my universe - it is a universal and necessary mathematical truth." And when he reflects on these two thoughts together, he sees no contradiction, but is rather struck with wonder and awe. What a mystery that this beautiful mathematical theorem must be true, and that reality can be no other way! What must reality truly be like, what must God be like, if wonders like this are necessary, woven into the fabric of existence itself?

It is exactly the same, I think, with all that God is and with all that he does. God must be as he is just as logic must be the way it is, but that does not make Him any less mysterious and beautiful. The necessity of his nature is itself part of who he is, which, one might argue, only adds to his greatness. In this sense, God is rather like the necessary and beautiful equation, and in many ways, so is His creation. If creation must be "patterned" as it is, the pattern remains just as beautiful, and just as much a signature of the Creator.

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